Ontario’s finance minister is dismissing criticism from cannabis industry executives who attribute their weak sales to the province’s limited number of retail stores.

“The [criticisms are] not fair; but it doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes businesspeople look for all kinds of reasons why things don’t work out,” Rod Phillips told BNN Bloomberg’s Paige Ellis Thursday.

"We’re focused on what is going to be a system that is sustainable, that makes sense for our communities and tackles the black market. We’re confident that we’ll put that forward.”

Phillips said he’s comfortable with the progress the province had made on its rollout of cannabis, given the sensitive nature of it.

His comments come following one of the worst weeks for the industry since legalization, with major cannabis producers like Canopy Growth Corp. and Aurora Cannabis Inc. widely missing revenue estimates and reporting disappointing sales in their latest quarter.

However, as BNN Bloomberg’s David George-Cosh reported Thursday, relief may be coming for the beleaguered industry in the new year.

The Ontario government is considering a plan that would abandon the current lottery process that has left it with only two dozen legal pot shops, and instead move to a system that could lay the groundwork for up to 1,000 stores in the province as early as January.

When asked about Ontario’s plans to start issuing cannabis store licences under an open allocation system, Phillips said the announcement will be made “when conditions are right.”

“Our priority is to make sure that we have safe distribution and that we tackle the black market,” he said. “Our government has been clear that private sector delivery and private sector retailers are going to be an important part of that.”

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